You receive a phone call out of the blue – or a pop-up message suddenly appears on your computer screen –
“Your computer may have been infected with a virus …”
The caller offers to assist in removing any virus supposedly infecting your computer or the message invites you to visit a website or call a number for assistance. Unless you simply hang up the phone or quickly delete the message, you are about to become the next victim of the epidemic of technical support scams.
Or even worse, you may unknowingly have given the scammer remote access to your computer where they can secretly install software that will track your computer strokes (including to online accounts and passwords) or steal personal and financial information off of your computer.
Some examples of these tech support scams from our partners at AARP Foundation ElderWatch:
- Consumer received a pop-up message that offered help cleaning up her computer. She called a phone number from the pop-up and was given a website address to visit for help. She gave them access to her computer and her credit card number.
Consumer received a call from someone claiming to be with Microsoft telling him that a virus had been detected on his computer. He was directed to a website. A “diagnosis” on that site supposedly revealed that his computer had numerous viruses and he needed to pay to get rid of them.
- Consumer got a pop-up message that instructed her to call a telephone number to get assistance removing viruses “detected” on her computer. She eventually paid $250 for non-existent repairs.
- Consumer is using the browser on his smartphone to surf the internet. A pop-up message comes up indicating that there is a virus on his smartphone and if he calls the number provided they can remove it.
Here are a few basic things you should know and some tips for avoiding tech support scams:
- The minute a stranger calls or emails you, or a pop-up message appears on your computer with a “WARNING!” about a virus detected on your computer you should know that it is a LIE. Large computer or software companies – including companies that provide legitimate security and anti-virus software – have no way of knowing whether your particular computer has been infected. They only send out notices or software updates when they identify a particular cyber threat affecting the whole market.
- Legitimate companies will NEVER call you out of the blue or send you a pop-up message with claims that they have detected a virus or other problem with your computer.
- If you receive a call from someone who offers technical support, or claims your computer has been hacked or infected with a virus, hang up immediately. Delete any pop-up messages without responding.
- NEVER allow a stranger to gain remote access to your computer—for any reason. Once they are inside, they can steal personal or financial information or install their own virus to steal this information for them.
- If you suspect that you actually have a virus or other problem with your computer, contact the help number that comes from the manufacturer or contact a local computer repair company.
- Keep all security software installed on your computer up-to-date and turned on.
- Make sure your device’s firewall and pop-up blocker are turned on. This will help prevent intrusions and unsafe pop-ups.
If you don't have a regular computer service company, you can research local computer service companies with rating agencies such as the Better Business Bureau.
If you have been victimized by a scam or wish to report suspicious activity, please file a report here.